Dust Storm in the Desert


Rajasthan, India 1983


I was in a beat-up taxi traveling through the desert to a town called Jaisalmer near the India-Pakistan border. It was in June, and as hot as the planet ever gets. The rains had failed in that part of Rajasthan for thirteen years. I wanted to capture something of the mood of anticipation before the monsoon.

As we drove down the road, we saw a dust storm grow — a typical event before the monsoon breaks. For miles it built into a huge frightening wall of dust, moving across the landscape like a tidal wave, eventually enveloping us like a thick fog. As it arrived, the temperature dropped suddenly and the noise became deafening. Where we stopped, women and children worked on the road — something they are driven to do when the crops fail — now barely able to stand in the fierce wind, clustered together to shield themselves from the sand and dust. I tried to make pictures.

In the strange dark-orange light and howling wind, battered by sand and dust they sang and prayed.  Life and death seemed to hang in a precarious balance.



43 Responses to “Dust Storm in the Desert”

  1. The photography is awesome. Thanks for your sharing. This is really very interesting and informative blog.

    India holiday packages

  2. […] la frontera entre India y Pakistán. El propio fotógrafo nos habla sobre estas fotografías en su Blog de Steve McCurry (merece una visita, actualizado y muchas fotografías). Termina diciendo: “Entre la extraña luz […]

  3. Kalaignanam Says:

    Stunning Photographs!

  4. […] sheet for Steve McCurry‘s picture of women in a dust storm (the one at the bottom in this post). Impressive because all the pictures in this contact sheet were of very high quality and because […]

  5. Hi Steve, my daughter and I just returned from an amazing 2 weeks holiday in Rajasthan. When I saw (on TV) your photo of a group of women huddling and singing during a dust storm there, it made my spine tingled… what a beautiful picture, so wonderfully captured. Is it possible for me to purchase that photo please, from a place that holds a special place in our hearts.

  6. […] the beautiful landscapes or their karigari, something like what Steve McCurry did in that Desert Storm image with the women huddled up in a group. It blows my mind. (Taking a drift…it is bizarre that it is […]

  7. […] Steve McCurry’s Blog. (n.d.) Retrieved Dec. 6, 2012 from WordPress website: https://stevemccurry.wordpress.com/2009/09/04/262/ […]

  8. jean little Says:

    After visiting your beautiful exhibition at Birmingham Art Gallery on Saturday, I just had to find out more about your photographs; hence I stumbled upon this blog. So glad I did, it was great to see ‘Dust storm’ again (my favourite.) I’ll go again to Birmingham (hubby too, he loved it.)

    Usually I’m not into photographs, preferring paintings, but your pictures are like looking at fantastic works of art, which they are of course – thank you.

  9. I just wrote about a dust storm in Jaipur on my blog; used the above photo.

    Thanks! Please come and visit my blog:)

  10. Hi Steve,
    These photographs are one of those photographs which I enjoyed no of times. I know how tough to get at the right place at the right moment.
    But now I came to know about the history.
    In the beginning of my photography I like to shoot in good condition of weather but slowly I realize the best shots were generated in extreme conditions/extreme weather where people deviated from their normal daily life and we get the subjects.

  11. johnwiththelens Says:

    Hi…loved the first picture so much. Ended up buying the book. It really reminds me of Gauguin’s vision after the sermon (http://bit.ly/7Kcu3s). Do you ever attempt consciously to reference other works? Many thanks for bringing back these thoughtful photographs.

  12. you are the best in the world!! thanks for everything you show me!! i love you

  13. I really like this image.
    You are the best photographer in the world!

  14. These are very expressive images and the colors of clothing really help in the drama of the storm …as well as the body shielding. I can only imagine as you look at these images again you can feel that stormy day. Thanks for sharing the story and the pictures.

  15. Like the sand those people are sheltering from, this photo is etched into my brain like all the other greats by people like McCullin, Nachtwey, etc.
    If I just take one shot in my lifetime that achieves the same for me, then i will die a happy man !

  16. What memorable images these are with that light and atmosphere!

  17. Anterograde Shutter Hammer Says:

    The magic of the photographer and I am pretty damm sure that it is Kodakcrome, brilliant film and as with nature all good things have to come to an end…. I hope more people shoot on film and kodakcrome comes back to life…………

  18. both are absolutely gorgeous photos… and they look so surreal!

    the one thing that strikes you about Rajasthan is the contrast in its various hues and colours…the unending barren deserts are complemented by the extremely colourful clothes of the women and ‘pagris’ (the head wear) of the menfolk…
    will be following ur blog…!

  19. Enrico Furlan Says:

    I’m one of those guys who aims at making a difference, leaving a recognizable mark in this world. I’m fascinated by those that succeed, just like you, and look at them for guidance and inspiration. Your work is amazing.Your pictures and stories are impressive and unique. Thank you.

  20. Absolutely love the second photo!
    Rajasthan is easily one of the most beautiful places in India especially from the perspective of the photographer! Theres some lovely character to the whole place and such a play of extremes …colour, culture, climate…and you seem to have captured it all:)

  21. marieinheels Says:

    wow! this is awesome!

  22. I think your blog is the coolest find since… a long time.

  23. This is great. Just have to say your work is a great inspiration for me!

  24. There are no words to discribe your images. You brought me to photography. So many thanks, Matthias

  25. i’m SO glad i stumbled unto your blog. so inspiring and stirs up the wanderlust in me even more! x

  26. This is amazing.

  27. I love how you have captured something so intimate between the girls huddling together, one of my favourite photos!

  28. These two are among my top favourites of all your photos – I love and appreciate you telling us the story behind them.

  29. Wow! I love these photos, these are the kind of images that inspire me to want to learn about photography even more and become a photographer. The story as well makes me want to pack up and see everything I can, truly inspiring.

  30. That second photograph is absolutely stunning; the women, the trees, the sky, the ground, the pots, the dust… Every detail becomes a fundamental part of the story… Thank you for your work, for sharing your stories, for inspiring us.

  31. I just wanted to say I love this picture (both of them, actually). I love the colors, the composition, everything. I’m sure you have heard such comments for years on pretty much all of your pictures, but its true nonetheless.

    And although I am sure you never get a chance to read through all of the comments you get, I also just wanted to take this chance to say thanks for being there and publishing your fantastic work. Having recently taken up photography myself (or tried to, at any rate!), your work has been an inspiration to me (and to millions of others I am sure). It gives me pleasure to look at your work and it gives me something to strive towards with my own photography. (And it has also given me another reason to go to India one day!)

  32. This is one of my favorite picture (vertical one). Like painting.

  33. Steve,

    These series of photos you have taken are my absolute favorite (there is one particular shot published in Steve McCurry, by Anthony Babbin, Phaidon, 2005, which is very similar to the second image, but shows the shiny metallic rings on the feet more clearer). It masterly captures the fear of getting caught in a sand storm and the hope of getting some badly needed rain.


  34. Wow!

    Thanks for sharing the story….and of course the pictures are great.

  35. Amazing images and fascinating stories and personal experiences behind them. Thank you for sharing them with us. MB

  36. That first photo is in your new book, “The Unguarded Moment” . . . and I love it. I think that the book is well edited too. But now that I am seeing the second photo, I must say that is a new favorite. I am in a black and white phase right now, but your work is inspirational in all of its colorful glory:-)

  37. Subeer M. Says:

    The dresses are excellent! Beautiful story and picture! Thank you.

  38. Hi there Steve,

    I love this image and have always wondered how wide you were shooting on the vertical picture. It looks like you were in there pretty close.

  39. I assume you all survived this storm, but how did your camera survive? :)

  40. whoa! I remember that first photo! one of my favorites. I dont think I have ever seen the second one though. The trees look amazing, almost poetic and peaceful. It’s amazing because, well… this is our world. Its a little strange for me to think about the fact that I dont have the same life as these women… I have never seen a dust storm. We all share this world and have different experiences. This is why I value travel so much. I want to feel connected to all these people, that we are all the same. I want to see and understand what their lives are like.

    anyways I really like that second one… and I like how you said ‘I tried to MAKE pictures’. Picture making vs picture taking.

  41. Great story behind the image!
    Isn’t this your favorite photograph?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 37,274 other followers

%d bloggers like this: